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5 things to look for from the Cowboys as the NFL enters its dead period: Will Jerry Jones talk?

From the Dak Prescott contract saga to Randy Gregory's potential reinstatement, here are some storylines to watch for.

The NFL offseason, which should be called NFL virtual offseason, has entered a dead period. Players and coaches will no longer meet on Zoom or Web X calls this summer. The coronavirus pandemic put official workouts and team meetings on hold.

The Cowboys enter the dead period of their summer looking forward to a training camp that is scheduled for July 28 at The Star.

So much could push that date back.

The Hall of Fame Game, in which Cowboys were scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, is moved to 2021. So change is already here.

And with that, here are some things to look for during this dead period.

Keep everyone healthy from COVID-19

The first known Cowboys player to test positive for the coronavirus was running back Ezekiel Elliott. A source said fewer than five Cowboys tested positive, and quarterback Dak Prescott wasn’t one of them.

Elliott said he’s doing better and expects to make a full recovery, but with the number of cases rising in Texas will the Cowboys see more of their players test positive? The key for the next month is making sure players stay healthy and do what’s required of them by medical professionals when it comes to the virus.

It is not known if every Cowboys player and coach has been tested. Team officials were given limited access to The Star when players rehabbing from injuries were allowed in.

Outside of the virus affecting the Cowboys, defensive tackle/end Tyrone Crawford (hips) and inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) were recovering from surgeries. Both expect to be ready for training camp practices in late July.

Will Dak Prescott sign a long-term deal?

FILE - Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) warms up before a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.
FILE - Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) warms up before a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

Under normal conditions, Prescott’s contract status would be the No. 1 item of concern for Cowboys fans. COVID-19 alters that thinking.

Prescott is a priority for the Cowboys, and he signed his exclusive franchise tag the day after Father’s Day, guaranteeing him $31.4 million in 2020. Prescott’s agent and team officials have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal, or else he’ll play under the tag.

The biggest sticking point is length of contract. Prescott seeks a four-year deal, while the Cowboys’ offer is for five years. That one year could make a difference in how much Prescott makes per year and how his money is structured over the life of the contract.

The Cowboys have gotten deals done in the past when pressed against deadlines; a prime example is Elliott in 2019. He signed a contract extension five days before the regular season after a holdout. The Cowboys could also stop contract talks with Prescott if the 2020 season doesn’t happen and restart talks next year.

When will draft picks sign?

The Cowboys drafted seven players, including one of the best receivers coming out of college in Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb at No. 17 overall. They also got a projected Week 1 starter in cornerback Trevon Diggs from Alabama in the second round.

All the draft picks have participated in the virtual offseason teaching sessions, but none has signed a contract .

The Cowboys haven’t spoken to Lamb’s agent regarding a contract. Of the six wide receivers taken in the first round, only Brandon Aiyuk signed, with the 49ers. Team revenue, which might be lower because of the coronavirus pandemic, has an impact on what the team offers in signing bonuses. The base salaries are set for rookies based on the CBA.

Will Jerry Jones talk?

FILE - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks with members of the media following a game between Washington and Dallas on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
FILE - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks with members of the media following a game between Washington and Dallas on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.(Lynda M. Gonzalez / Staff Photographer)

The death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis led to another push from activists and the everyday citizen to stop police brutality against people of color.

Numerous NFL players have taken strong stances this offseason against police brutality and pledged to take a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness on the issue. In the past, Jones has said he doesn’t want the Cowboys’ players to take a knee. Several media members and newly signed Cowboys defensive tackle Gerald McCoy asked Jones to speak on players kneeling during the anthem.

The Cowboys issued an organizational statement June 4 condemning racism and supporting players in their outrage over the death of Floyd. That statement was approved by Jones. Normally, Jones talks three times a week during the football season: after every game and twice a week on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3), the Cowboys’ flagship radio station.

The offseason is sketchy. If Jones attends an event at The Star or AT&T Stadium, he normally speaks with reporters. Jones will also talk at the NFL meetings in the spring. The pandemic has shut down Jones’ availability to meet with reporters this offseason, and he wasn’t made available during conference calls. Jones has never been an owner to speak when people demanded it, especially on controversial issues.

Will there be any more additions to the roster?

The NFL reinstated defensive end Aldon Smith for the 2020 season, but will it do the same for fellow rush end Randy Gregory? He last played in 2018 and is suspended for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policies. Gregory has applied for reinstatement and is awaiting a decision from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The addition of Gregory would be a boost to a pass rush that will need to give star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence help.

The Cowboys might sign a player to bolster their secondary or defensive line. The team has even looked at Japanese kicker Toshiki Sato. Sato told Kyodo News in Japan that the Raiders and Cowboys have expressed interest. A team source said the team did evaluate Sato but are sticking with Greg Zuerlein and Kai Forbath at the position. Sato is looking to become the first Japanese player in the NFL.

Find more Cowboys stories from The Dallas Morning News here.

In This Story

Calvin Watkins. This is my 10th year covering the Dallas Cowboys. This is special for me because I've never reached the 10th year in anything, other than living. So I guess that's something to be proud of.

calvin.watkins@dallasnews.com @calvinwatkins
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